U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) pledged his continued support Tuesday for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, as well as the agency in general and other agencies vital to Lake Erie programs and monitoring its algal blooms.
Mr. Portman began his visit to the area with a stop at the man-made wetland developed by the University of Toledo and others west of Maumee Bay State Park’s entrance.
The wetland’s planning dates back to the early 1990s, when a local task force was trying to identify sources of bacteria at the state park beaches.
With DNA-like research, biologist Lou Glatzer attributed much of the problem to ditches carrying human waste from faulty septic tanks and animal manure. The $1.8 million wetland was designed, but not built for years until federal money was provided to pay for it.
While the senator stood on the wetland and got an overview from Daryl Dwyer, a UT ecology professor who oversaw the project, a snowy egret took flight after spending several minutes in the marsh.
“I love our visitor over there,” Mr. Portman said, looking in the majestic shorebird’s direction.
Mr. Portman then went to UT’s Lake Erie Center, where he spoke with UT’s algae expert, Tom Bridgeman, and UT’s invasive species expert, Christine Mayer.
He toured the center’s wet lab and got a first-hand look at three of the four species of Asian carp, including the two scientists are trying hardest to keep out of Great Lakes: bighead and silver carp.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), left, talks with University of Toledo Department of Environmental Sciences professor Daryl Dwyer at a restored wetland site near the entrance at Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon.
Frozen, gutted specimens of those two and a specimen of grass carp were shown to the senator.
He and other members of Congress are working with the Army Corps of Engineers on a new plan to thwart the bighead and silver Asian carps’ invasion into Lake Michigan via Chicago. The three specimens of carp were pulled from the Illinois River on Thursday night, Ms. Mayer said. “Every study shows more and more evidence of them getting closer,” Mr. Portman said.
The senator also pledged continued support for the U.S. EPA laboratory in Cincinnati that is the national headquarters for analyzing water toxins. It played a key role for Toledo during the high-profile tap-water crisis in August, 2014, when algal toxins made water undrinkable for 500,000 customers in the metro region.
“These projects are working,” Mr. Portman said of environmental programs in general, but especially the GLRI. “They are a cost-effective way of keeping the water clean.”
Mr. Portman, who co-chairs the Senate Great Lakes Task Force with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), said there is bipartisan support for Great Lakes programs among the Great Lakes delegation in both chambers of Congress.
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